Brokenness to Beauty

Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life


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Surprise!

God is always surprising me.

When I was asked a few weeks ago to present a workshop on prayer at a women’s retreat, I silently gulped and said, “Yes, Lord.” Then I responded (audibly) in the affirmative to the lady asking me if I would do the workshop.

It is humbling to have someone ask me if I’d do a presentation on the subject of prayer. I’m still a learner in that field. I always will be, of course. And to consider speaking publicly, well, that is nothing short of miraculous.

That I can say “yes” to speaking in front of people, and on the subject of prayer, is a wonder to me on two fronts:

1) I can physically do it and

2) I have material already compiled from which to draw to put together such a presentation.

A few years ago I never could have agreed to talk in front of people for an hour. I have MG (myasthenia gravis, a severe muscle weakness) and have been extremely weak for most of my life. The miracle is that I have been stronger for the past eight-plus years than I have been since I was thirteen years old, and I now can do public speaking!

Even though I planned this workshop to be an interactive Bible study time, not an hour-long lecture, I still had to do a lot of talking. My ability to speak this much is the gracious and miraculous work of God. It is the answer to many prayers prayed over the span of more than forty years.

I also had what I needed to present in the prayer workshop. A few years ago I had finally said “yes” to God about writing the book Brokenness to Beauty (and I’m now writing the Bible study guide to go with it; a work in progress), and I had already thought through and written much of the material I used for this workshop on prayer.

Though I wasn’t at a loss for what to say, I did earnestly pray for direction from the Lord to narrow it down. Volumes could be said about prayer (and volumes have been written on prayer), but it certainly wouldn’t fit within that one hour time frame. I needed to speak to what these ladies needed to hear. Only God has that information. He again answered prayer.

Most important to me when I speak or teach is to direct women into the Word of God. If they forget what I say but hear what God says in his Word, I will have been successful.

I initially thought I was going to the women’s retreat (hosted by our former church) in order to take it all in for myself, enjoy the beautiful mountains around the retreat center, and especially to see many dear friends I hadn’t seen since moving from Bakersfield to Colton last fall.

As it turned out, not only did I get to do those things, I ended up with the privilege of serving God by serving the women who came to the prayer workshop. What a great weekend we had!

 

Did I mention God is always surprising me?

I was mighty tired after driving the three hours it took to get to the retreat center, the busy weekend and the three hour drive home, but I give thanks to our great God for giving me the strength to do it. He truly “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV).

Photos of women’s retreat by Alayna Condon and Lindsay Long.

Scripture taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. https://www.biblegateway.com.

 


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It’s all a matter of the Will

Springtime in Georgia is beautiful, with many flowering bushes, large and small. I was there the middle of April and watched the buds on my hostess’ rhododendron bush open into full bloom. It reminded me of the large rhododendron in the yard of my former home in West Virginia. Gorgeous.

Almost heaven, West Virginia, where everything is green ... and grows!

Almost heaven, West Virginia, where everything is green … and grows!

 

While I was in Georgia representing Mustard Seeds and Mountains at a missions conference, I was able to attend three book signing parties for my book, Brokenness to Beauty, put on for me by long-time friends.  I so appreciate each of these host ladies! I got to visit with them, share about the ministry of Mustard Seeds and Mountains with the guests, and then had readings from and discussion about my book, Brokenness to Beauty. One passage we read was from Chapter 5—The Scriptures, Our Life:

“I remember well my daily struggles with fear, pain, and uncertainty in the days of cancer treatment, crying many tears as I talked to God. Though Randy was able to be with me for a few months at the beginning of my treatment, most of that year and a half he was back in West Virginia working while I stayed in California. Every day I turned to the Bible. I poured out my heart to God in prayer as I read his Word.

I once wrote on my blog:

The Scriptures, God’s words to us, sustain me daily. They are our life. They bring the only light to this dark path.

At the end of his wilderness journey, Moses knew he was about to die. He had faithfully obeyed the words of the Lord. He led the Israelites out of Egypt, bore up under the crushing load of their complaining and rebellion against God (and himself), and gave them the law of God, the first five books of the Bible.

Before he turned over the reins of leadership to Joshua, Moses sang a scathing song of warning and chastisement before giving the Israelites one last charge. He said:

Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life (Deuteronomy 32:46–47).

These words about the Bible are for me as much as for the Israelites of thousands of years ago. The Scriptures are not idle words for me; they are my life. I take that statement to heart.”

God has given us his words. Do we grasp the significance of that? I am convinced, even from my own life, that we do not understand as we ought what it means to have God’s words. If we did our lives would be different!

His words are meant to transform us. That only happens when we take them in (usually through reading and studying them), understand them to some degree, put them into practice, and by so doing change our thoughts, words, behaviors and lifestyles.

As I write this blog post on my laptop in my home in Bakersfield, CA, I marvel at the patient work of God in my life, even though I’ve been slow to learn the value and importance of his words.

The words of God to the Israelites are for me, and for you, today:

Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. (Deuteronomy 32:46–47, emphasis mine)

Will we take seriously, to our very hearts, the words of warning from the Word of God given to us through Moses and the other writers of the Scriptures?

Will we faithfully teach our children to carefully obey the Word of God, setting the example for them to follow our steps of faith and obedience?

Will we grasp the truth that the Word of God is our very life, not to be taken lightly or pushed aside, following the noise of the culture around us?

Will we live in the truth that we do have all the time we need for spending in God’s Word (rather than the lie that “I don’t have time”)?

Will we strive, as the writer of Hebrews says in chapter 4 verse 11, to enter into God’s rest through diligently obeying his revealed word?

It’s all a matter of the Will.

No more excuses.

May we will to do his Will. God help us.

And he will.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed … work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13, NASB.)

 

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation


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Let us Gathering: Work to Rest!

“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:11, ESV)

So just what is the “rest” of God? What is it we are talking about that is so important that we need “anxiously fear” that we might miss it and that we must strive, putting forth effort as believers, to enter it?

The writer of Hebrews was referring back to the word “rest” from Psalm 95: 11, which he had quoted: “Therefore I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” Of course, there is a whole story behind those words, a rationale for that harsh statement.

The story is found in Numbers 13 and 14 (worth taking a moment to read). God had made a promise. The Israelite majority, out of fear, rejected God’s offer. They rebelled against the “word,” the promise of God. Their unbelief, fueled by fear, made it impossible for God to give them what he had promised: the land of Canaan. They would not believe him, did not obey him, and therefore they could not receive from him.

God’s pronouncement against them: “They shall not enter my rest,” was the outcome of their unbelief and rebellion against God. God was not being unreasonable. They refused to enter the land, therefore God could not give it to them. When we refuse to believe and act on God’s word, we shut ourselves off from receiving the benefits of his word, his promises.

But God’s promise, his “rest,” is still open and available to whoever will believe it: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95: 8a). Do not harden your hearts “as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways’” (Psalm 95: 8b-10; ref. Numbers 13, 14; my emphases).

“For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened” (Hebrews 4: 2).

Good news? Isn’t that a New Testament concept? What was the good news preached to the ancient Israelites that compares to the good news we have had passed down to us?

 

In a nutshell: the Kingdom of God; the rule of God in their lives and our lives. The Israelites of Moses’ day were given the Laws of God, mediated by angels, laws for life which were meant to be kept for the good, the welfare of the people. Tremendous blessings in this life would have accrued to them, had they obeyed from the heart those laws of God. One of the first steps of obedience was entering the land of Canaan. God had promised to give it to them. But they dug in their heels and revolted against God.

Those Laws given to Moses were fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, who preached, “Repent! For the Kingdom of God is near.” Jesus demonstrated the kingdom and power of God by his actions while here on earth. He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, after dying on the cross taking on himself the sins of the world (that world is you and me and everyone else).

Now we, two thousand years later, have heard the Gospel, the Good News that is good news indeed, that Jesus Christ has come and is setting up his kingdom in the hearts of those who will trust in and obey him.

Jesuit chapel door by TheBrassGlass http://mrg.bz/Hsznqd

Jesuit chapel door by TheBrassGlass http://mrg.bz/Hsznqd

But what about this strong admonition to believers to “fear” coming short of, and to “strive to enter,” God’s rest; how do we do this?  As a friend of mine expressed, “I humbly and reverently understand (that) to walk in his word is to rest.”

It comes back to hearing God’s word with ears that hear, i.e., ears that obey those words to:

abide in him and in his words (John 15:7),

grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18),

continue in his words (John 8:31),

work out our own salvation with fear and trembling … (Philippians 2:12),

walk in the Light as he is in the light (I John 1:7),

live by the Spirit … walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25),

diligently add to your faith … (2 Peter 2:3-11),

be doers of the word and not hearers only who deceive ourselves … (James 1:22).

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12, 13).

Jesus so succinctly stated it in his grandly simple and simply grand invitation: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-29).

Come: Believe. Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me: live in and live out the Word of God.

And our souls will have the Rest of God.

 

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews+4%3A11&version=ESV

New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation


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Let-us Gathering: Fear!

“Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.” (NIV)

“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” (KJV)

“Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.” (NASB)

I found it interesting that in this verse we are told to fear something. It got me to thinking about 1) what we are to fear, and 2) how often in scripture (well, at least the New Testament) we are told to fear something or someone. There are many passages where Jesus or the writers of scripture tell us not to fear, and I take courage from them to “not fear.” But there are also definite things we are to fear. One is here in Hebrews chapter four. There are others but you’ll have to look them up yourself. I’m going to focus on what we are to fear.

Since we are to fear something, what does that mean? Or more to the point, what did the writer, by inspiration of the Spirit of God, mean by the word used? Bottom line: What is God telling us? These are his words to us.

“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.” (ESV)

In the first three chapters of the book the writer of Hebrews had been building an argument for taking heed to (hearing and doing) God’s Word, which had been spoken in the past by prophets and finally through his Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1: 1-3). He presents evidence that Jesus is greater than the angels, those spirit-servants of God, because Jesus is God (1: 4-14). So then we should anchor our lives to what we have heard so we do not slide away from the truth into sin and the penalty of disobedience (2:1-18).

Then the writer makes a comparison between the position of a servant in a household to that of the builder of the house who is, in fact, the builder of everything: God. Moses was a faithful servant in God’s house, but Jesus is greater because he is the faithful Son over God’s house. And we are that house of God over which the Son resides, “if it be that” we “hold fast or maintain our confidence and the hope of which we boast firm unto the end” (3:1-6).

So in light of that, and the fact that there is still a Rest of God open to us, we are not to be like the Israelites who refused to believe God’s word and therefore could not and did not enter that rest (3:7-19). (There is a whole study in itself on the Rest of God, but I can’t go there now; you’ll have to jump on that yourself.)

We are all too much like those Israelites; we have the same sinful, fallen nature they had. But we also, like them, have the freedom to choose to believe God—or not. They heard the words of God, we have heard the words of God. Will we believe and obey (for to believe is to obey)?

“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.” (ESV)

The word “fear” in this verse carries the sense “to be fearfully anxious.” It is a strong admonition. This is not to be taken lightly! There are dire consequences to ignoring and disobeying the word of God. Look at the Israelites (Numbers 13-14).

How did the Israelites “hear,” and how are we expected and warned to “hear”? They didn’t believe God and live by what he said. They heard the same good news which has been handed down to us, and which we have now heard as well. Do we believe God? Do we believe and obey him in the hard times as well as the easy times of our lives?

This is how we are to differ from the Israelites in the way we “hear” the word of God: do not harden our hearts; hear with the intent of obeying. We must humble our hearts (3:12-19). We are to be fearfully anxious that we do not allow our hearts to become hard to the things God says. And miss out on his promised rest.

And not just for our individual selves, but we are to “encourage one another” (3:13).

Peter put it another way, a more positive way, as a command to action to intentionally add to what we already know and do (II Peter 1:3-11; 3:18). Paul said it another way as well: work out your salvation with fear (same root word) and trembling, for it is God who is working in us (do we know that?) to do his will and that which pleases him (Philippians 2—the whole chapter is gripping).

The more I think about it, the more I see the Spirit of God saying the same things throughout scripture. It is all of a piece.

Hebrews 4:1 is one of the Let-us commands: Let us fear. We are to be fearfully anxious that we not allow our hearts, individually and corporately, to become hard against God by lightly dismissing his word, by not being intentional to carve out time to read/hear and obey it, by ignoring it, by refusing to obey it.

I’ve only begun to scratch at the surface of the riches of this one verse. There is so much here in this book of Hebrews!

What will we do with the Word of God? Anchor our lives to it or cast off and drift away from it?

 

See also Interlinear for the rest of us: the reverse interlinear for New Testament word studies, by Wm. D. Mounce, published by Zondervan; and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible by James Strong, published by Hendrickson Publishers.

Scriptures taken from Bible Gateway https://www.biblegateway.com/

“As a result of this (the hard words of Jesus) many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.’” (John 6:66-68, context John 6:26-68)

 

Recently I was asked to write the weekly blog for our women’s Abide prayer group. The women’s Bible study at church is going through the book of Hebrews and several of the women who receive the Abide blog also attend the Bible study. Hmmm. I decided to go for a walk in the garden, God’s Let-us garden.

Remember the Cabbage Patch kids? Yeah, a big fad of funny looking baby dolls. They were popular for a while, but didn’t endure.

Well, I believe we should be Let-us Ladies (and Men; remember this was originally addressed to women, but applies just as much to the guys). But unlike the quickly fading Cabbage Kids, we should endure. Not a flash in the pan but for the long haul.

What is a Let-us Lady (or Man), you ask? If you’ve ever studied the book of Hebrews you know; Hebrews is God’s Let-us garden.

There are twelve Let-us patches we should walk through and carefully observe. Observe-to-do the Let-us’s.

Ready? Then let us go for a walk in God’s Let-us garden.

Hebrews 4:1 “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.”

Hebrews 4:11 “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.”

Hebrews 4:14  “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”

Hebrews 4:16  “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Hebrews 6:1 “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.”

Hebrews 10:22 “… let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful …”

Hebrews 10:24 “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds”

Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us …”

Hebrews 12:28 “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe …”

Hebrews 13:13 “So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.”

Hebrews 13:15 “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”

The Let-us patches are, of course, nestled within a larger garden. Notice all the “Therefore’s”? Yeah. What went before is there for a reason. Reading the context is crucial.

Food for life is to be found in God’s garden and his Let-us’s are extremely beneficial. For now and forever.

“Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16).

Scriptures used are from the NASB http://www.lockman.org/